West Magnolia recreation area in Boulder County to close for summer (Daily Camera)
Forest Service: Popular trails will not look the same after thinning project
Early June is usually when the snow melts and mountain bikers go for their first ride of the year on the popular West Magnolia trails, just southeast of Nederland High School.
This May, though, the trails are snow-free earlier than usual, and mountain bikers should ride while they can. Around June 1, the U.S. Forest Service will close West Magnolia for "fuels reduction" -- thinning and cutting down trees in parcels totaling 330 acres in the recreation area to reduce fire potential and pine beetle infestation.
Tree removal is expected to take at least two months, and after that, the Forest Service will do rehabilitation work in the area, such as restoring compacted soil and reseeding the ground. It's unclear whether the area will reopen before fall, said Elsa Kirby, spokeswoman for the Forest Service's Boulder Ranger District.
Only one section of the cut parcels will be visible from the road, Kirby said. But trail users will see a difference.
"We're not taking the baby trees, we're not taking the aspen trees, and there will be a few other types of conifer other than lodgepole that will be left," she said. "There will be pockets of trees for wildlife for exclusion.
"But it'll look different, especially with those lodgepole trees that are the same height, the same size that have grown close together (cut down)," she said of the cutting areas.
The areas the Forest Service has chosen for fuels reduction are dense lodgepole stands, Kirby said.
"If you take out a large area of homogenous lodgepole pines, it would mimic a large fire going through, which would allow something like aspen to regenerate," she said. "It also encourages other trees to come in, and when that happens, you have a diverse stand, and that tends to be beetle-resistant."
Nederland Mayor Joe Gierlach said his town is pleased that the Forest Service is managing the area.
"The lack of snowfall this year is pretty frightening for our community," he said.
The Boulder Mountainbike Alliance has been planning for the project. Two years ago, the advocacy organization applied for and won a grant for designing new trails there, said BMA president Jason Vogel.
"Right now, it's so tight and twisty and it folds back on itself," Vogel said of the trails. "The only reason trails like that are possible is the tight nature of the forest up there -- after all of that forest is gone, it'll seem contrived."
Vogel said the group wants to come up with trail designs that are fun and "make sense in a landscape where there aren't as many trees."
Once the popular area reopens, he said, planners will be anxious to start building sustainable trails.
"We have to at least create a trail that goes from the high school to Sugar Mag (Trail), which will still be there, and maybe cross over to the School Bus Trail, which gives people something to do," he said. "But I have concerns about how fast we can get the trails done because if you don't build trails, people will build it themselves."
By Jenn Fields, Colorado Daily staff writer
Posted: 05/15/2012 07:55:07 PM MDTUpdated: 05/15/2012 07:58:00 PM MDT